Food is one of the great equalizers, allowing one to not only experience, but taste, culture and flavors from around the world, as far as another continent and as close as a local farm. This passion for food—fresh and pesticide-free—laces Kit Wood’s every word as she explains the origins and tenets of her company, Green Plate Catering.
It’s also apparent in the company’s menus, boasting dishes like mushroom tartlets in winter and slow roasted salmon with sun dried tomato pesto in summer.
“I grew up in the middle of Ohio, surrounded by fresh produce,” Wood reflects. Her love of food and access to local farms led to the beginning of Green Plate Catering, whether she knew it or not.
She began packing lunches for her husband, excited about the seasonal flavors she could incorporate. Eventually, her lunch-making skills gained the attention of friends and colleagues, and she expanded beyond the four walls of her own home.
Green Plate Catering Begins
Fast-forward and a catering company is born, dedicated to “all the green things before they were popular.” Twelve years ago, Wood connected with Jessica L. Weiss, founder and executive director of growingSOUL, an organization committed to teaching and advocating a zero-waste food cycle.
“She taught me all about [composting],” says Wood. “We hired them for service and as we got bigger, we switched to Veteran Compost, a local company that employs veterans and their family.”
Despite the company’s exciting growth, Wood remained committed to staying local.
“We buy foods that aren’t sprayed, grown in healthy soil, and we get to know our farmers,” she explains, praising the importance of community. “Over the years, you learn and you hear and you pay attention. Eventually, you can tell the difference in the tastes of the product.”
But Wood acknowledges she never would have gotten here without the help, knowledge, and expertise of other people. Her biggest mistake at the beginning was thinking she could do it all on her own. With help from the likes of Weiss and hiring a larger, passionate staff, Wood saw Green Plate Catering bloom like never before.
For all her efforts, Green Plate Catering successfully earned the Green Business Network’s gold certification, which Wood describes as exciting: “It’s the gold standard of meeting green practices. And then Montgomery Country [in Maryland] has a green initiative, so we’re certified in our county, too.”
The certifications are well earned, with sustainability touching nearly every part of the business, from the composting and seasonal, local food to biodegradable boxes and tableware.
She recalls an event three years ago at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, MD: “There were probably 350 people there—and I walked out with half a bag of trash. I was so proud of us. So proud. And it was a challenge; it was a lot of people, but it was truly green event.”
Green Your Own Kitchen
Wood may have the power and support of a staffed company, but she believes anyone can make sustainable efforts in their kitchen, especially when it comes to prolonging the life of food. There are several guides online about storing food properly—consider starting with the winter 2016 Green American, “Tackling Food Waste.”
Learn what you can make with food on the brink, like turning mealy apples into applesauce or putting overripe bananas in a smoothie. With leftovers, Wood encourages turning to your community: “Share your food. Offer a snack to the neighborhood kid when he comes from school or take a meal to the grandmother down the street. At Green Plate, we keep food in the back called ‘clean food’ and we donate it to our county shelter.”
This act of returning to community, relying on and learning from one another, is not only how Green Plate Catering thrives, but how Wood finds hope for the future.
“I’m excited that this younger generation seems more engaged. People make claims about them, how they’re all about technology and stuff, but so many are more engaged with the Earth and connection than we give them credit for.”
It's seen in her own son, Ryan Devine, who will inherit Green Plate Catering in the future.
Though she concedes while everyone, younger generations and beyond, must “do their part,” those in power at every level can do more to support sustainable development.